Training foster carers - ideas from practice

An independent fostering agency, KINDERCARE FOSTERING in Kent, in partnership with the University of Surrey, has developed two additional qualifications: the Certificate in Professional Practice in Foster Care and a follow-on Diploma. Kindercare's analysis of their foster carers found that around one-third of them already had a higher qualification. The NVQ route seemed ineffective for this group especially as they already had accumulated years of experience as foster carers. The Certificate of Professional Practice in Foster Care offers additions to NVQ level competence - based learning, and the Diploma offers a route for those carers who wish to enhance their training still further. A modular programme has been designed. The course will be available via the web, and includes home-based learning as well as workshops and tutorials. The qualifications will retain, and add to, the essential features of the NVQ. Key subjects will be studied: for example, child development, trauma and dysfunctional development, and managing challenging situations. In the future, Kindercare is keen to develop a degree-level qualification with the university.

LAMBETH'S Children Looked After Mental Health Service provides a quick response to placements at risk of breakdown, offering direct assessment and intervention to children and carers. In addition, this scheme offers training on the psychology of children’s behavior, and advice and support to social workers.

An independent agency, Families for Children (FfC) has also developed a range of innovative vocational and professional education and training opportunities. It publishes brochures for foster carers and social workers, listing training events throughout the year. The 2003 brochure includes sessions on contact with birth families, challenging behaviour, and the education of looked-after children, which are all in line with research messages about effectiveness. This training programme prepares foster carers who are embarking on an NVQ course.

Progression to a sponsored Diploma in Social Work course is another option at FfC, and five foster carers have qualified and returned to work as social workers, having been guaranteed jobs when they qualified. A service level agreement between FfC and Chichester University College includes the provision of student placements and employee access to social work training.

WARWICKSHIRE is one of many local authorities to offer the NVQ Award 'Caring for Children and Young People’ Level 3 to carers. In order to deliver the training it has established a specialist NVQ Training Centre staffed by a team of four. Twenty places are available each year, starting in the spring or autumn. Distance learning opportunities, supported by ICT, are available and being developed further. The authority meets all fees and expenses, including those for travel. It has also developed further opportunities for those who have obtained this qualification to become mentors and assessors.